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The Ice House
Murderous Secrets Are Hidden in "The Ice House"

Streech Grange, the august estate owned by Phoebe Maybury (Penny Downie, An Ideal Husband), may not be as pleasant as it seems on its well-appointed surface. Ten years ago, Phoebe's husband David disappeared without a trace, and Phoebe was suspected of his murder by the police and assumed to be his killer by the local villagers--although his body was never found. But now the gardener has stumbled upon a corpse--naked, badly decomposed, and unidentifiable--in the long-abandoned, grown-over ice house at the edge of the property. Is it David Maybury? Or has yet another crime occurred at the Grange?

The Ice House, a three-hour drama based on Minette Walters's prize-winning novel of the same title, premieres on MYSTERY! in two 90-minute installments, on Thursday, February 26 and March 5 at 9pm et on PBS (check local listings). The Sculptress, a previous Walters adaptation, made its debut earlier this season on MYSTERY!

Combining a twists-and-turns plot with sharply drawn characters and an unexpected love story, The Ice House transcends the mystery genre to offer a compelling study in the deception of appearances, the terrible power of gossip and scandal, and a troubling philosophical question: can personal vengeance ever be justified?

In the ten years since her husband disappeared, suspicions that Phoebe is guilty of his murder have been fed by her lifestyle. She now resides in Streech Grange with two old friends--Diana Goode (Frances Barber, Mobil Masterpiece Theatre's Rhodes) and Anne Cattrell (Kitty Aldridge, who also appears in the Cadfael mystery, The Rose Rent)--and rumors that the three are living in a ménage a trois are widely believed by the village, which has, for the most part, shunned the women. Phoebe's two children--the emotionally fragile Jane (Alexandra Milman) and strident medical student Jonathan (James D'Arcy)--have left home, still haunted by their father's mysterious disappearance.

The discovery of the body in the ice house brings Chief Inspector George Walsh (Corin Redgrave, Persuasion) and his young sergeant, Andy McLoughlin (Daniel Craig, Mobil Masterpiece Theatre's Moll Flanders) to the scene. For the aggressive Walsh, it's a chance to re-open the Maybury investigation, which has plagued him for a decade; he has long been convinced of Phoebe's guilt. For Andy, whose crumbling marriage has contributed to his depression and severe drinking problem, the case is, at first, almost secondary--it's enough for him just to get through the day.

Walsh immediately orders a thorough search of the entire Streech Grange. The women's privacy is soon invaded by scores of policemen--as well as by the growing presence of the media and angry villagers outside the gates--and it becomes clear that, despite their protestations of innocence, the three are hiding something. And keeping the veil of secrecy in place are the visiting Jane and Jonathan and Phoebe's servants, Fred (Dave Hill) and Molly Phillips (Ann Bell)--all of whom seem to be guarding secrets of their own.

Andy, meanwhile, finds himself drawn to Anne, a liberal journalist who maintains an openly confrontational stance toward the police investigation and delights in taunting Andy with suggestive remarks about her sexuality. Andy and Anne's tense verbal sparring soon intensifies into mutual sexual attraction, but when Andy discovers a bloody knife in a safe in Anne's quarters, he is forced to arrest her.

Rather than helping solve the murder, the discovery of the knife only deepens the mystery. The growing list of baffling clues--a pair of shoes, a vagrant, several secret sexual liaisons, a failed business investment, a missing persons list--will all test Andy's mettle before he can uncover the identity of the body in the ice house. And even then, one further startling secret will be revealed, one final revelation of murderous revenge that will finally melt the ice that has kept Streech Grange and its inhabitants frozen for a decade.

The Ice House, which won the Crime Writers Association Award for Best First Novel, catapulted author Minette Walters into the top ranks of mystery writers. Her novel The Sculptress, which appeared on MYSTERY! this past fall, won the 1994 Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best Novel, one of the detective fiction genre's highest accolades.

The Ice House is a co-production of the BBC and WGBH Boston in association with Showcase Canada. Suzan Harrison is producer; Tim Fywell is director. Executive producer is Chris Parr for the BBC and Rebecca Eaton for WGBH Boston. The screenplay is by Lizzie Mickery, adapted from the novel by Minette Walters. The Ice House is presented on MYSTERY! by WGBH Boston. Funding for MYSTERY! is provided by The Insurance Companies of Travelers and public television viewers. MYSTERY! is closed captioned for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers by The Caption Center at WGBH Boston. Narrated descriptions of MYSTERY! programs are provided by Descriptive Video Service® (DVS®), a national service of WGBH that makes television, cable, and home video programming accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired.

Executive producer for MYSTERY! is Rebecca Eaton. Diana Rigg is host.

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